When I was a kid, I used to hide under my covers and force my eyes shut, trying with all my might to go to sleep. I was a scared little kid; afraid of the dark, of nightmares, of the end of the world. I was too small and too terrified, so I would hide under my blankets and imagine I was someone else. Someone who was braver. Stronger. Tougher. I always imagined myself as my favorite Star Wars characters; Princess Leia, Mara Jade, hell, I even saw myself in Luke Skywalker at times. I ran to stories to teach me how to be brave.
I cried at the end of the Lord of the Rings because I knew what it felt like to carry heavy burdens that tore you apart. I sobbed reading Looking for Alaska in high school while sitting in a hospital bed after having experienced so much physical suffering. Percy Jackson meant so much to me as a child who always felt out of place. I remember seeing each new Marvel film with my best friend because she was the only one who understood that when I cried about Tony Stark, there was always a part of me that was crying for me too. I couldn’t help it. Maybe I was too empathetic or maybe I was looking for someone to give me hope; a reason to keep going.
I read stories to see myself in them and to be shaped by them. I wanted to be brave like Anabeth, Mara Jade, and Frodo. But I had panic attacks at the slightest of triggers. I cried myself to sleep. I tried to be brave, but I could never tell anyone what was going on. I was a coward. Because of it, I spent most of my childhood being locked in on myself. Stories were my escape.
I’ve grown up a lot since then.
I’d like to think I’m a little bit braver, a little bit stronger. I take medication and go to therapy for help because I realized a long time ago that I couldn’t deal with it all alone, nor should I. When there are storms, I am the one to comfort my siblings. When there are fights, I am the one to raise my voice. I’ve become more of the woman I always wanted to be.
I’m 24 years old now. I pay bills. I work two jobs. I put gas in the car. I help put food on the table. I’m all grown up now.
I would like to think that, at least.
But I have learned that there is always going to be a younger version of myself locked inside of this one. She exists. That younger version of myself comes out when I’m afraid, when I’m stressed out. It is like I am ten years old again and I am scared of the dark.
I’ve been learning to take care of her. It has made me realize I haven’t really grown up at all.
Lately, I’ve been watching anime. It is all I can watch. I find myself aching with the 2D drawings on the screen the same way I did when I was younger. It is like I am a small girl looking for hope. I’ve been watching Attack On Titan like I need Armin to live because maybe it will mean that I can too. Gon from HunterXHunter has brought tears to my eyes; I see him and want to imitate his kindness. I find comfort in Fullmetal Alchemist; seeing how Ed and Al kept pushing on despite their pain.
I watch anime and I feel the ten-year-old girl in me flutter. She wants to be brave too.
I never stopped searching for hope in stories. I am a natural born writer; this is all I know. Life has shaken me up these past few years. Especially lately, I know I am not the only one returning to my roots. In the midst of such trauma as we have seen during this pandemic, others have gone back to heal their inner child. I am no different.
My inner child woke up at the beginning of the pandemic. I have had to learn to take care of her. I have learned to give myself the things I needed as a child. I’m learning there is no statute of limitations on experiencing childhood. I am 24 and becoming a kid for the first time.
I have decided to let myself be lost in stories again. I allow myself to cry watching cartoons because I can see myself in them. Sometimes I eat Lucky Charms for breakfast and put sprinkles on my pancakes. Outside, I run around with my siblings and let myself do stupid things. My little brother teaches me tiktok dances. He has gotten me into cosplay and anime conventions because life is too short to be worried about looking foolish. Every day, my siblings teach me more about seeing life through the eyes of a child.
In truth, I never really grew up at all.
Lately, I’ve been petrified. I won’t pretend that I have overcome my fears. Some days, they consume me. It brings me right back to being a child; powerless and alone. But on these days, I have found myself watching anime and searching for a reason to keep going. I’m an adult now, but sometimes I still curl up under the covers and pray for God to give me a sign. Sometimes God answers. She speaks in mysterious ways.
Armin, from Attack on Titan once said, “maybe the reason I was born was so that the three of us could be racing there…that these trivial moments might actually be precious. Who knows, but to my eyes, even if there’s no need for something like this in order to multiply, it’s still something incredibly precious.”
Sometimes anime quotes can be benedictions.
I will continue to find hope in random places. I will keep finding inspiration from stories. I will search for God in the TV screen because she has always known that is where to reach me. I am big enough to admit that I am oftentimes moved by 2D characters. I refuse to take life that seriously; its too short to not be goofy once in a while. Watch the damn anime. Wear the cosplay. Eat the sugar cereal. Play on the playground. Blow bubbles. Play videogames. Talk to your inner child. Ask her what she needs.
Maybe she just needs a little anime.
“We’ll offer up, we’ll offer up, we’ll sacrifice until our hearts have stopped. With our own hands, we’ll take a stand and carve a path into our future. We’ll offer up, we’ll offer up, We’ll sacrifice until our hearts have stopped. With our own hands we’ll take a stand and live to see another day.” – Shinzou Wo Sasageyo (Attack on Titan Opening 3)
“Do you really have to be special? Do you really need people’s recognition? I don’t think so. He doesn’t need to become great. Just look at him, don’t you see how cute he is? He’s already great because he was born into this world.” – Carla Jaeger, Attack on Titan